Public Bus Systems in the Miami Area Aren’t Immune from Accidents – or Liability
The Miami-Dade Transit Authority, Fort Lauderdale Transit, and Broward County Transit are just a few among many publicly operated passenger bus systems in the South Florida area. Whether public or private, these bus systems take on a responsibility every time they take on a passenger. There is an unwritten contract that they will deliver that passenger safely to that passenger’s destination. When they fail to live up to that obligation, what are the injured passenger’s options? It turns out that injured passengers likely have more options than you might think.
Bus Systems Are Common Carriers, and That Means a Lot for Passengers
Bus systems, whether they are privately operated or run by a county, municipality, or regional government entity, are legally known as common carriers. Common carriers offer transportation for property or people to the public for a fee. A common carrier, under state and federal law, is responsible for, and has liability for injuries its passengers suffer because of the carrier’s negligence. That responsibility begins when the passenger enters the system – for example, entering a bus stop or station – and doesn’t end until the passenger exits the system at the other end of the passenger’s journey and leaves the final stop or station. This is known as a “duty of care” and does not apply only to accidents that happen while a passenger is actually on a bus. It applies to vehicular accidents, of course, but also includes a duty that the common carrier take steps to protect the passenger from injuries due to hazardous conditions and other accidents within the carrier’s system that result in injuries that are the result of the carrier’s failure to live up to its duty of care.
By virtue of being common carriers, a bus system is held to a higher duty of care than the “reasonable person” standard used in most negligent injury actions. The Florida Supreme Court has set the standard of care for common carriers significantly higher than the general personal injury negligence standard that other tort defenders face:
The reasonable care required of a common carrier for the safety of a passenger is the highest degree of care that is consistent with the type of transportation used and the practical operation of the business of a common carrier of passengers. Negligence of a common carrier is doing something that a very careful person would not do under like circumstances or failing to do something that a very careful person would do under like circumstances.
This means that a bus system has a duty to protect its passengers from accidents within its system in the same way that a “very careful” person would, not simply a “reasonable” person. The difference is likely up to a jury to decide, but the implication is that, while no one can prevent all accidents, a common carrier has to do more. For passengers, this means that a bus system has to:
- Get passengers safely to their destination free from accidents that are a result of the bus system’s negligence
- Take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard passengers throughout their trip in the operator’s system, including maintaining and operating a safe transit system from the bus stop to the end of the system’s infrastructure
- Give passengers safe places to enter and leave the transit system premises, safe places to board and exit the system’s vehicles, and safe vehicular transport, and
- Hire and train employees who are qualified to exercise proper safety precautions.
If a bus system doesn’t meet these standards, and a passenger is injured in an accident that is the fault of the bus system, be it a vehicle accident or an injury suffered at a bus stop or station that is a result of poor maintenance or the like, the bus system likely will face legal liability for that injury. Common carriers, with their enhanced duty of care, must ensure that they proactively address issues that could lead to accidents that could be found to be a result of negligence by the carrier. These issues could include:
- Creating employee work schedules that don’t provide sufficient time off, creating the possibility of accidents resulting from operator fatigue or poor maintenance stemming from worker fatigue
- Inadequate or improper driver or maintenance employee training
- Improperly maintained transit equipment
- Inadequate employee supervision
- Discipline failures that allow poor performance to continue
- Vehicle failures that lead to accidents and stem from improper maintenance
Meeting the common carrier’s standard of care is no easy job, but that is part of the responsibility that comes with entering the common carrier market. Failing to meet that standard means facing the consequences when that failure results in accidents and injuries. Such liability obviously would include accidents that injure passengers using the transit system. Examples of such failures of care are abundant in South Florida common carriers, with bus-related injuries, in particular, being fairly frequent.
Common Carriers Are Liable for the Full Range of Accident Damages
A common carrier that is found liable for an accidental injury that happens on its system – in a bus accident or in a bus stop or station – that is a result of the carrier’s negligence faces liability that extends to all the standard measures of damages in an accident liability case. This includes medical expenses, of course, but also can include lost wages, pain and suffering, expenses for physical therapy, long-term care expenses where appropriate, and whatever other measures of damages that might apply.
If You Have Been Injured in an Accident Involving a South Florida Bus System, Contact a Miami Bus Accident Attorney
Accidents involving bus systems in the South Florida region happen every day. Many of those accidents are a result of the bus system failing to meet its duty of care toward its passengers. If you are injured in such an accident, you need to protect your rights. You should consult with a Miami bus accident attorney and find out what your options are for recovering damages. Contact Flagler Personal Injury Group at (305) 424-8445 or through our online contact form. Flagler Personal Injury Group serves the greater Miami area.